What a day! As if jokingly, the idea of playing Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant was thrown around, followed by, as if jokingly, the idea of playing Dune (2019). We ended up playing both – two very niche games in their own way, and two very unexpected games to be played by our group, especially back-to-back!
Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant is a trading game which looks intimidatingly heavy and has a hefty table space presence. However, once you start playing it, it is intuitive, flows well, and isn’t even that long, considering what it is. It’s a fascinating economic negotiation, resource conversion game where alien races trade with each other, each having their optimal niche/specialty of production/conversion, or some kind of asymmetric advantage. Over the course of the game, technologies are researched, and then shared with everyone at the table after a short delay, improving everyone’s conversion engines in an asymmetric way – which is also the main source of victory points.
It all sounds frighteningly complex, and the amusing alien “terminology” techno-mumbo-jumbo doesn’t help, but if you just embrace it, it’s very accessible, and you’ll have a great time – assuming it’s played with the right group, and everyone who is playing enjoys negotiations. One thing to realize is that “even” trades (which the game provides a “fair trade value” reference for) are sometimes good for both parties, and you don’t have to always “trade up” like perhaps in other games of this kind.
As for Dune (2019 version), we had previously played it using the “beginner” rules, and it was not good – a boring, drawn out attrition fest. However, with the “advanced” rules (which should be standard, really), the game sings. It’s a highly unfair (by design), highly aggressive area control game, with plenty of backstabbing, alliances, and betrayal. But it’s so good! Playing it approaches masochism sometimes, but the intricacies and ebb-flow of the game keeps you longing for more, and the experience just feels epic.
The only downside of the game is that it goes on for a while, and if you’re not involved in the battles during the battle phase, there’s some significant downtime. I think it is entertaining and interesting to observe interplay and outcomes between others, so that kept me engaged, but I can see how some might be bored. Definitely not a game for the impatient or irritable, but simply put – what an experience.
I’d consider playing either of those games “premium,” thought-provoking, and meaningful experiences in board gaming, in their own way – and definitely something everyone should experience at least once. For best results, both games should be played multiple times with the same group, and also with the right group. It’s easy for the experience to be tarnished by even a single person since both games are so highly interactive.